Monthly Archives: July 2012

Summer Cooking: Outtakes and Deleted Scenes

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve been suspiciously quiet this summer. Perhaps you’ve thought, “Um, Sarah- isn’t this summer break? When you have no classes and thus clearly have far more free time to be cooking?”

Well, maybe you don’t use the word “thus”.  And maybe you haven’t thought that much about it, but I certainly have.  When I turned in my final paper in mid-May, I pictured three months of freedom.  Three months with no classes, no assignments, and plenty of time to split between productivity and laziness. Yet somehow I feel like there is more going on now than during the school year, or even last summer when I was prepping for my wedding. Because summer is the time to actually devote time to all the research-related tasks that I really should be working on throughout the year but always get pushed to the side by other commitments. And while I don’t think I would qualify as a workaholic, I do have a tendency to get obsessive about research stuff.

For example… have you ever stepped into the black hole otherwise known as a literature search? It starts off innocent enough. Your advisor forwards an article to you. You think, “This is interesting.  I wonder what else this researcher has published.” And suddenly it is two and a half hours later and you’ve looked at abstracts for everything this person wrote, not to mention every article that has cited this person. You have twelve PDF files open on your computer, a running mental list of five more keywords to try, and you find yourself screaming at the computer, “This article is exactly what I have been searching for. Why is it in FRENCH??” If only you’d taken French instead of Spanish. Your poor husband stares at you. Perhaps he’s wondering if you’re ever going to start cooking dinner. Or perhaps he’s wondering if you’re ever going to take a shower today. Or perhaps he too is wishing you spoke French.

So yeah… I’ve been a little preoccupied. And while I have been cooking, not everything has been worth writing about. Or, I just got too into cooking and forgot to take photographs. And what’s the point of posting a recipe if it’s not accompanied by food porn?

That being said… I have taken some photographs of some beautiful summer produce, and I felt sad that they were just going to get lost in a file on my computer. Especially because summer is the rare time that I am able to cook dinner (aka take photographs) while there is still natural light outside.

Shiitakes and scallions.  To be skewered and grilled. They weren’t bad, but they looked prettier raw than cooked, and the end product was a salad that had too much going on without any cohesion. Ah well.

Grilled kale. Also a part of the salad. And again, it probably would be good on its own, or in a simpler context.

Squash. From two different farmers’ markets. Purchased with the intent of making this summer squash soup. Two different days I pulled the squash out the fridge to make the soup for lunch. And two days the squash went right back into the fridge. Because who wants to cook squash and deal with a food processor when…

… you could have an amazing, perfect, best-thing-in-the-world tomato sandwich? I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten a summer’s worth of tomato sandwiches in the span of two weeks. My favorites were on whole grain bread, with avocado, basil, spinach, and mayo (and some smoked blue cheese, if you’re feelin’ fancy).  I was so enamored with this sandwich that I had to immortalize it. With Instagram. On two different occasions.

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Summer Fun List Progress Report #3

I should do these updates more often because this could get lengthy with all the catching up I have to do.  It’s been a fairly busy summer, although I’m kind of freaking out that it’s already the middle of July and there is a lot I still want to do before the fall semester starts.  But before I run off to address some other items on my list, I’ll share with you what’s been happening recently.

Go on a bakery adventure with my sister: COMPLETE. If you missed it, you can read all the details here.

Visit Baltimore Farmer’s Market at least once a month: Three months down, one to go. So… technically I haven’t returned to the Farmer’s Market in Baltimore since my May trip.  However I have stopped by the Wednesday Farmer’s Market on campus a couple times and picked up some beautiful raspberries and sour cherries (which went into making this pie), not to mention this past week when I returned home with eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches, basil… I think I’m missing something.  However, since the tomatoes are already gone, I think I might be motivated enough to get up early tomorrow and head downtown  to the Baltimore Farmer’s Market to restock.

Cook a Thai recipe: In progress. As in, I currently have curry paste, fish sauce, and some Thai chiles sitting on my counter for tonight’s dinner.  If it turns out well, you’ll probably hear about it.

See a movie in the theater: COMPLETE. Yes, I saw Magic Mike. 

Do yoga at least 25 times: …?  I haven’t really been keeping count, but I’d say I’ve been averaging 1 or 2 times a week. I did go to an actual yoga class for the first time in two years.  It felt really good and was a nice reminder that doing yoga at home by yourself is a completely different thing- I definitely don’t push myself as much when there is no one else around.  I should try to go to classes more often, even if I don’t have the time or funds to do it regularly.

Read at least two books that have nothing to do with school: COMPLETE. In fact, I’m reading my third non-school-related book right now.

Print and frame some wedding photos: In progress. On our anniversary this past Monday, Nick and I looked through the 500 or so photographs that our amazing photographer Stevie T compiled for us on a DVD.  I started an Excel sheet– this shouldn’t surprise you – noting which ones we’d want to print and frame.  Mostly though, it was a nice way to spend our first anniversary together- remembering where we were a year ago and seeing all the details I’ve already forgotten. And then, we went to dinner…

Eat dinner at Charleston: COMPLETE. Actually, I’d say this was more than a dinner- it was an experience. Every single detail was attended to perfectly: the dots of a lime and saffron sauce circling a mozzarella and tomato salad, the crisp wine that cleansed my palate so that every bite of a cornmeal-crusted soft shell crab was as stunning as the first bite, the silver tray with complimentary sweets (little truffles, macarons, etc.) that accompanied our actual dessert (also complimentary, and mandatory… I’m not kidding).  I really wish I had photographs of every dish to share with you.  But when your server is describing your food to you as it is presented, whipping out a camera phone to document the moment just seems wrong.  Quite possibly the best meal I have ever had, and certainly a wonderful evening with my favorite person.

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Coconut Breakfast Pudding

There are certain buzzwords that will grab my attention when it comes to recipes: “Moroccan”, “Bacon-wrapped”, “Coconut”…

So it’s no surprise that “Coconut Breakfast Pudding with Sauteed Nectarines” would catch my eye.  The fact that it was featured in Whole Living (and therefore must be healthy) made it even more appealing.  According to the article, the oats are easy on your digestive system, but this is also incredibly filling.

The oats and shredded coconut need to be soaked overnight, so this is requires a little planning ahead.  But that just means in the morning you’ll be one step closer to a satisfying, flavorful breakfast.

Coconut Breakfast Pudding with Sauteed Nectarines (from Whole Living, July/August 2012; serves 2)

The night before: Soak 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats and 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut in a bowl with 1 1/2 cups water and refrigerate.

In the morning: Transfer the coconut-oat mixture to a saucepan and stir in 1 cup plain almond milk, 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, and a pinch of coarse salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until creamy (about 12 minutes).  Remove from heat, stir, and cover.

Heat 2 tsp coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute 2 sliced nectarines until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. (After two minutes, my nectarines were still not golden, but I was worried about them getting mushy… I think the pan wasn’t hot enough, so be sure to heat the oil before you add the fruit).  Stir in 1 tbsp maple syrup.

Divide oats between two bowls and top with nectarines and 1/4 cup toasted, unsweetened large coconut flakes (per usual, I was too impatient to toast the coconut flakes, and it was fine. But there’s certainly time to toast them while the oats are simmering.) Drizzle with additional syrup, if desired.

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It’s One Hundred Degrees Outside- Why Not Bake a Pie?

I never thought something like pie would lead people to question my sanity.  But apparently declaring via Facebook that you are going to bake a pie on a day it’s supposed to exceed 100 degrees will do exactly that.

I honestly hadn’t given the weather much thought.  I mean, it’s not like I’d be cooking the pie outside.  And with two dinky window air conditioning units and a west-facing kitchen that does not seem to benefit from either AC unit, heating up the oven didn’t seem like it would do much damage.  Or maybe this is a no pain, no gain kind of situation: if you’re not willing to sweat your [insert your choice of anatomy here] off, you’ll probably miss out on a pretty delicious pie. 

And to those of you who questioned my idea of an opportune pie-baking day, all I have to say to you is this (with love): You’re lucky there are crazy people like me who will hang out in the kitchen instead of the pool, because if it wasn’t for us, your summers would be sadly devoid of baked goods.

That being said, I might have backed out if it wasn’t for the giant container of sour cherries from the farmers’ market sitting in my fridge that needed to be used.  I considered pitting and freezing them for a later date, but these intensely red orbs were begging to be tossed with some sugar and tucked into a buttery crust.

Let me tell you, these cherries, and the pie filling they turned into, were so good.  They truly did deserve the butteriest, flakiest, homemade crust.  And I failed them there.  You see, while you’re pitting five cups of cherries, you have lots of time to think.  And to let those anti-pie naysayers on Facebook creep into your thoughts.  Which results in a conversation between you, yourself, and your most neurotic inner-self:

Lazy Sarah: Eh, maybe I should just buy refrigerated pie dough and get on with my day.

Overachiever Sarah: Are you crazy? You can’t half-ass a pie crust when you’re working with fresh cherries!

Lazy Sarah: But if the filling is that good, who’s gonna notice the Pillsbury crust?

Overachiever Sarah: Maybe they won’t notice, but deep down in your heart, you will know this could have been a better pie.

Third Sarah Who Just Wants to Complicate Matters: Hey, did you see that recipe for Sour Cherry Turnovers?

Lazy Sarah: Oh, that could be good.  I could just buy frozen puff pastry.

Overachiever Sarah: OR you could make cream cheese pastry dough from scratch…

Pragmatic Sarah: Well, we just wasted thirty minutes. We said we wanted to make a pie, so we’re making a pie.  And Overachiever Sarah, do you really want to be handling buttery dough in this heat?  Save your energy for the fancy lattice top.

Maybe people should be questioning my sanity.

If you think that’s bad, you should hear the argument I had with myself about buying Pillsbury versus store-brand dough.  But I won’t subject you to that.  In the end, Pillsbury won.  And it was… fine.  But I have to admit, later when I was enjoying some pie and vanilla ice cream, I was wondering how much more awesome it would be with homemade pie crust.

Next time.

I’m not going to post the whole recipe here, as I followed it exactly (other than slacking on the pie crust).  You can find the original recipe here: Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust.   It’s actually the same recipe I referenced for Nick’s Birthday Pie, when I actually made the crust from scratch, but failed to find cherries.

Overachiever Sarah was clearly not present at the time of pie cutting.

Random fact: This pie holds a special place in my heart as it was the cover recipe for the very first issue of Bon Appetit I ever received.  How do I remember that?  Probably because the cover is actually framed and on the wall in our kitchen.

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